Final Fantasy XII is here after the long awaited release ever since X came out. From the origins of the world’s most popular role-playing series, this game features an inspired look, boldly redesigned strategic combat, and an extended, long story that delivers players right into the heart of the experience. While Square Enix did ship numerous games bearing the Final Fantasy brand after 2001’s Final Fantasy X, it took all these years before another lengthy, and beautifully produced traditional role-playing game would arrive. Final Fantasy XII arrives at the end of the PlayStation 2’s life cycle, surprisingly but there is no end in sight. This latest installment in the series introduces a new strategic combat system that makes gameplay cohesive and more hands-off than before. Final Fantasy XII, as always, is packaged with outstanding art direction, a believable cast of characters, a lengthy quest, and challenges that live up to the Final Fantasy name.
Unlike most previous Final Fantasy games, this latest iteration takes place on Square Enix’s spin on fantasy world ans sci-fi adventure. Final Fantasy XII’s world of Ivalice appeared first in 1998’s great Final Fantasy Tactics and later again in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Men and women walk the streets of Ivalice’s impressive cities together with lizardlike creatures and other strange beings, and political unrest and war threaten their livelihoods as resistance mounts to overthrow an empire that has taken much land since it is existence. Ivalice is more fantasy than science fiction in a way but the air battles featured in the game’s opening cutscene, and the high-tech airships give Final Fantasy the first sci-fi game in a way. A group of characters set out to free the country of Dalmasca from the clutches of the Archadian Empire, which took it over by force. During the journey, you will learn much more about the history of Ivalice, and as always the trademark of the emotions and depth of every character.
Vaan is the male lead with a good-natured personality and strong instincts. His childhood friend, Penelo, somehow gets swept up into everything along with him, and soon enough Vaan runs into sky pirate named Balthier and his companion, a rabbit-eared woman named Fran. A strong-willed princess and a disgraced captain of Dalmasca’s defeated military summarize the entire cast persona, though they are joined by other companions at various times throughout the game. Much like the cast, the story itself is similar to previous Final Fantasy games in a lot of ways, resulting in dramatic and emotionally charged moments and sequences. The plot unfolds through beautifully produced and expressive cinematic cutscenes and plenty of well-written dialogue. Amazing exploration, solid combat, and a great storyline are all trademark of the Final Fantasy franchise, and are present in Final Fantasy XII.
Combat occurs seamlessly in the areas you will explore, rather than in random battles that force you out of exploration mode and into combat mode. As a result, you will almost always see your enemies on the battlefield before you engage them, and there is no longer a discrete difference between the exploration mode and the combat mode as they are now the same. The benefit of this is that the frustrations of constantly running into random enemy encounters, a feeling that’s common to Japanese role-playing games, is simply not there in Final Fantasy XII. Combat is still frequent and unavoidable, but not having to constantly switch between fighting and exploration helps make the game’s flow more smooth.
One noticeable addition to Final Fantasy XII is the gambit system. The key to the combat itself is this system that is sort of a variety of presets for your characters. The system itself can be complicated, but execute simple functions. You can give each character in your party his or her own set of conditional, prioritized orders. A simple example is a gambit that causes one of your characters to automatically attack the nearest enemy. Instead, you might prioritize casting a healing spell on allies at less than 25 percent of their health ahead of that or if any enemies are down to critical health you can make sure the highest priority is finishing them off. This is incredibly useful and allows characters to feel more real while being more useful as well.
Although the combat execution is vastly different, the nature of the underlying combat is the same which means you will constantly be trading hits with foes. Many foes will use status-changing effects in different combinations, like poison or sleep spells, and Final Fantasy players will need to contend with these in familiar ways similar to the past games. It is a little disappointing that with a gambit system, and the immersion aspects that Square decided not to fully extend the priorities of the nature of combat itself. Hopefully Final Fantasy XIII will fare better.
Final Fantasy XII has certainly taken forever to be released but it shows why it did. Development has not failed to present a game of high quality, noticeable improvements and and great graphics that is a fitting title for the Final Fantasy series.